by Paul Hamaker from the Examiner.com:
Researchers led by Laura Gasparini at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia in Genova Italy are the first to report the restoration of cognitive functions in Down syndrome mice using lithium in the December 3, 2012, issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Lithium has been shown to be useful in the treatment of several mood disorders in humans and is particularly affective in the treatment of bipolar disorder.
Mice are used in human brain disease studies because mouse brain chemistry is very close to human brain chemistry.
The Down syndrome mice were tested in tasks measuring contextual learning, spatial memory, and object discrimination before and after being treated with lithium. The mice demonstrated a marked improvement in memory function after treatment with lithium.
Remarkably the Down syndrome mice also showed restored neurogenesis (regrowth and rebirth of nerve cells) in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is directly associated with learning and memory.
Not ready for humans yet, this first success implies a significant improvement in the treatment of Down syndrome using a drug that is known to be safe for most people.
The most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that considered cases of Down syndrome in Alabama indicate an increased number of Down syndrome births by 8.4 percent. No defined cause has been found for the increase.
The research was reviewed at the Eureka Alert website the date of publication.